Some Reading Fun

Enjoy this excerpt from my book, The Man in the Box. There will be a release date for the second edition coming soon. And don’t forget to Like The Man in the Box Facebook page for a chance to win a free, autographed copy!

From Chapter 18

Robbie turned off the radio. It was up to him to break the ice. He said, “We missed you at breakfast.”

Taylor continued to stare at the window with her chin in her hand.

“That coffee’s for you,” he said, motioning toward the mug in the cup holder beside them. “Just cream. No sugar.”

“I like sugar now,” mumbled Taylor.

Robbie nodded, taking note of one of the many changes about his little girl. “How’s Darrin?” he asked, but bit his tongue as soon as the wrong name snuck out of his mouth.

“It’s Dwayne. And fine.”

“You never did tell me why you were crying last night. I figured you had broken up.”

“Dwayne wants me to go to a party that I know you’re not going to let me go to; it’s no big deal, okay? There. You know all you need to know.” She said this as she pulled a piece of paper out of a side pocket from her duffle bag and shoved it in his direction.

Robbie didn’t know what frustrated him more: the fact that this twerp was pressuring his daughter to go to a party or that she was still dating him.

Wanting to steer clear of the romance department, he ignored the paper she was pushing toward him and decided to just jump in feet first and get to the bottom of last night’s escape attempt. He asked, “What happened last night? Where were you going? Were you going to that party?”

“No, I wasn’t. It’s not for a while. Next month or something,” was Taylor’s muffled response.

“You know you’re grounded, right?”

“Good. I love missing out on my social life,” snapped Taylor, throwing the paper to the floorboard in a fit.

“Hey. Don’t get smart with me,” retorted Robbie, growing angry.

Taylor threw back, “You’re the ones who think you’re so smart! You don’t even know what I was doing last night!”

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you were sneaking out, Taylor. So maybe we’re not as smart as you think!” Robbie shook his head and vilified himself for his absent-minded comeback.

Taylor just rolled her eyes and turned her head away, refocusing her sight out the window.

After a moment, a calmer Robbie asked, “So what were you doing last night?”

“What do youcare? You’re too busy coming up with reasons to get me in trouble.”

“Not get you in trouble. We’re trying to keep you fromtrouble.”

Taylor just mimicked Robbie, sticking her lower lip out in a mock gesture. He just about blew a fuse. He prayed her own children would be just like her for the sole purpose of making her pay for all of his headaches.

“Here’s a newsflash Taylor,” started Robbie. “If you would just talkto us, then maybe we wouldn’t be so suspicious of whatever you’re doing. What is it, Taylor? I care; talk to me. Is it drugs?”

“Dad.”

“You’re not into that voodoo Wicca stuff are you?”

“No.”

“Is it sex?”

Dad!

“Oh please don’t let it be sex. You already have a kid, don’t you?”

“Yes, Dad, I managed to hide my fat stomach from the entire family for nine months.”

“You see! I don’t know if you’re telling me the truth right now or just being sarcastic with me which, as you know, would be lying,” yelled Robbie. “I don’t know how to read you.”

“Why do you even have to read me at all? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Robbie stopped behind a line of cars at the stoplight. “Because you’re my daughter, and that’s not what parents do, Taylor. Apparently you’ll find that out in about fifteen years when little Wayne is sitting in your spot and you’re driving him to school.”

Taylor sighed in utter frustration saying, “I don’t have a baby, Dad!”

“Is there a chance that you could be having one?” Robbie awkwardly asked, unable to suppress his curiosity.

The light was still red, and Taylor flew open the door and jumped out of the car yelling over her shoulder, “I’m walking to practice!” Then she slammed the door, flying her duffle bag over her shoulder.

Robbie, in a moment of utter shock, had his eyes only on Taylor when he gassed the car to follow after her. He flew right into the car in front of him, lurching him forward, catching on the seatbelt. The sound of crunching metal sent him into a panic as he saw dollar signs float away on wings all around him. The coffee spilled all over his right leg throwing him into a world of pain, and he clumsily tried pulling his pant leg apart from his skin to ease the burn.

He looked at Taylor who was just a few feet away, expecting her to come back to the car. But she just gave him those eyes that told him he was just plain embarrassing and continued to walk off.

 

Book Trailer!

It’s not a video, but I’ve taken parts of my book and compiled them into movie trailer format. Enjoy the “trailer” to my book, like it on Facebook, and buy it when the new and improved edition is released!

“Look out your window. Is that a dinosaur, Jeremy?” Robbie asks his son in the back seat, who stays glued to the game on his iPad. “You know, stomping around. Eating things?” Robbie’s wife, Rosalynn, looks at him with a smirk from the passenger seat.

—–

Gothic_Boy_Small_crop_large“Who’s this?” asks Robbie, interrupting his daughter’s kiss with the creepy-looking college kid. “This is Dwayne. Dwayne, my dad.”

“Good to meet you, kiddo,” says Robbie, shaking his hand. “Derek, was it?”

—–

“While your blood sugar and heart level are fine, there seems to be a blockage which is just a bit concerning to me,” says the doctor from across the desk.

“How concerning?” asks Rosalynn, reaching for Robbie’s hand.

“Concerning enough that we’re going to have to keep you overnight.”

—–

“Toy’s debut novel will leave readers talking and will make them instant fans of his storytelling abilities.” -Nicole McManus, reviewer and blogger

—–

“I’m sure you know we’re letting people go.” says Robbie’s boss.fired

“Don’t do this to me, Kurt.”

“I’ll give you a good reference. I’m sorry, Robbie. We’re only keeping a small handful of people, if it makes you feel better.”

Oh yes. Much, thinks Robbie.

—–

“I’ve got something big,” says Robbie’s coworker. “You won’t believe what I found. We have access to his clients. We use these leads, we’ll have jobs again in no time!”

“What do we have to do?” Robbie asks.

“We sneak in, pull up the information, print it out, and leave.”

—–

Robbie is in an empty warehouse, tapping his foot anxiously, waiting for the age-old man-peeking-out-of-moving-boxprinter to print the documents. He hears the bar on the door move. Panicking, he jumps inside a nearby cardboard box, just big enough to fit him if he scrunches. He closes his eyes

and all goes black.

When he opens his eyes he sees that he is crouching in a giant puddle of crystal-blue phosphorescent water. The water glows brightly enough to reveal a vast cavern surrounding him.

—–

Robbie, still dressed in his suit, is in the jungle talking to a little girl.

The girl takes a step toward him and lifts his tie from his chest. “This looks stupid. Do you use it to swat at flies or something?”

“No. It’s just for looks. It makes me look powerful and in control,” answers Robbie.

—–

jungle“I’m so glad you’re finally with us,” a beautiful young woman says to Robbie. She opens her arms and asks, “May I?”

Only for the rest of our lives, thinks Robbie, looking nervous.

“You don’t look powerful and in control to me,” observes the little girl nearby.

—–

“It’s getting dark,” says the young woman. “We need to go underground now.”

“Why?” asks Robbie.zombies

“Because they’ll be here soon.”

“Who?”

—–

Chills go down Robbie’s spine at the thought of supernatural beings reaping havoc mere feet above his head, and all because they are looking for him.

—–

“This was a heart-stopping suspense adventure like I haven’t read in a long time.” -Cherese Vines, author and blogger

—–

The little girl bites down hard on Robbie’s hand underwater. He screams.

—–

“What happened to your hand?” asks Rosalynn, in their kitchen. Robbie is back home now.

“I had the most incredible dream ever!” Robbie explains. “I was on this island and this little girl was chasing me through some caves and she tried to drown me. That’s when she bit me. Then we saw a dinosaur—an actual, real dinosaur, Rosalynn! Isn’t that insane?”

He uses the word “insane” the same way one might use the word “cool” or “unbelievable”. But Rosalynn obviously takes it for its literal meaning.

“Yes, it is. Honey, I think you need to relax for a bit.”

—–

centipedesRobbie, back in the jungle is pinned to the tree by a giant centipede, while dozens of little ones scurry up his legs into his pants.

—–

“What are we hiding from every night?” Robbie asks the beautiful woman.

“Pruflas.”

“What are they?”

—–

A prufla is breathing heavily on the woman’s neck in a dimly-lit space. It has the form of a corpse with blotchy skin like vegetable bruises. Its eyes are rolled into the back of its head and two slits are where its nose should be.

—–

“Why not just fight them?” asks Robbie. “Declare war.”

An old man shakes his head. “They don’t live. So they can’t be killed. Victory would be impossible.”

—–

“I’m finding centipedes everywhere,” says Rosalynn. “I must’ve killed three of them today.”

—–

Taylor comes running downstairs, screaming, and shaking centipedes out of her hair.

—–

Robbie is in his backyard and slowly backs away as small dinosaurs come crawling out of Eoraptor1the box toward him.

—–

“Get back in the box, Robbie,” says an old man in his house.

“No.”

“Get back in the box or I’ll kill your family off one by one.”

—–

Robbie is frantically ushering his family in the car. Once they’re all in, he peers in the window at Rosalynn and says, “You guys need to get out of here. Drive anywhere; I don’t care. Just get away from here!”

—–

Jeremy is in the back seat of the car sitting next to the box. “Mom. There’s something moving in this box back here.”

“It’s probably just the bumps in the road, sweetheart,” assures Rosalynn.

man in boxSECOND EDITION – SPRING 2014

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Is Divergent as Good as Hunger Games?

divergentThis is a spoiler-free review.

I just read Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Apparently she wrote it while she was in college and two other books completes her trilogy.

Like Hunger Games, it is set in a dystopian world, and also like Hunger Games, it is written in that awesome first-person present tense style that really seems to be catching on.

You should know that my wife and I are pretty obsessed when it comes to Hunger Games, and I’m sure Roth doesn’t appreciate her story being compared to something so superior.

However, one can hardly divorce the two.

Divergent lacks the big-picture suspense story that carries Hunger Games, as it’s sometimes hard to see where Roth is taking her readers. There’s little setup from the start, explaining her dystopian Chicago, which could have served as great suspense marks.

But at the same time, it’s not such a bad thing to learn about things as the protagonist does.

When I finished Divergent, Sarabeth asked me the same question everyone else is wondering: “Is it better than Hunger Games?

My answer was no.

“If you hadn’t read Hunger Games, would you have liked it more?”

My answer again, was no.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoyed the book. But unlike Hunger Games, my criticisms kept building up.

My biggest hangup with the book was the love story.

Now, I realize this is a teen book centered around an adolescent girl, but I just kept rolling my eyes each time the love interests came together for yet more snogging and oohing and awing.

To be honest, it’s the most I’ve wanted to throw up due to such over-the-top sentiments.

Maybe I wouldn’t’ve felt that way if it wasn’t so forced and manufactured. Really, it was just very difficult to buy into.

As for the rest of the book?

I actually enjoyed the author’s world where society is broken up into separate factions based off of different virtues. It is a very well thought-out world, and many scenes were quite heart-stopping as you had no idea what the sadist villain was going to come up with next (don’t you just love a terribly wicked bad guy?).

Would I recommend it? Sure thing. A good fiction is hard to find these days, and I would qualify this as good enough. I’ll certainly be reading the next two books when they’re available in paperback.

However, I will say this. I’d much sooner allow my kids to read Hunger Games long before I hand Divergent over to them. It’s not as sexual, Katniss isn’t all googly-eyed and wounded by Cupid, and the lines of good vs. evil aren’t so blurred.

What are your thoughts on the book? Which series do you like better? Share your thoughts below.

Writing Romance

Slide1It doesn’t take long to scroll through my posts to see that I’m not a big fan of romantic comedies.

Oh, sure, there’s a couple of romantic comedies I do like. Sweet Home Alabama for one. I love it for its stance on marriage and commitment. I like Elizabethtown because it’s so weird and quirky, and is actually about more than just the boy and girl falling in love.

There’s a select few others that I enjoy, but those are the best of the bunch. As for the rest of them… they’re kind of like super hero movies in that they’re all basically the same (with the exception of the Dark Knight trilogy).

So I’m writing a romantic comedy that’s different from the rest (a book, mind you, not a screenplay). Fans of my first book The Man in the Box won’t meet up with dinosaurs or man-eating ghosts or gargantuan jungle cats. But you’ll still be able to relate to the main characters of my book in progress, Our Life Captured. 

It’s still in the works, and I will likely have it done by the end of summer. But please start showing support for it by joining the Facebook page to receive updates, news, quotes, and, who knows – I might even need your help to dish out some punchlines for me.

So what’s it about? I don’t want to give too much away right now, but I will say this:

The two things everyone wants most in this world… quick, what are they?

Love is one, yes.

And the other? We all want attention, recognition …fame.

And that’s just what is offered in Our Life Captured.

Love and fame are just a click away.

Join the Facebook page here.

Life of Pi: To Read or to Watch … That’s the Question, Isn’t it?

Sarabeth and I sat down to watch Life of Pi less than an hour after I finished reading the book. Having read the book of course, I was extremely excited for the movie – and curious as to how it had maintained just a PG rating.

I know some of my readers have yet to see the movie, or even read the book. Or maybe you’ve seen it, but not read it or visa-versa. So you’re wondering, is it worth reading or is it worth watching?

Allow me to share my thoughts on both written and visual depictions of the story by Yann Martel.

Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel. Let me tell you, the first few sentences had me hooked. Now, let me make clear to you: I’m not blind to the fact that this book’s cover may have well been a picture of those “Coexist” bumper stickers. (Somebody pointed out at church recently that we already do coexist, so what’s the point of the sticker?)

I read books with many different hats on. I found myself having to switch hats on many different occasions while reading this piece of work.

As a blogger and book reviewer, I couldn’t wait to share this exciting read with my readers.

As an author, I learned many  new tricks from Mr. Martel, and am indebted to his bravery of venturing into new territories, and am awed by his storytelling abilities. He truly has proved himself a master of fiction.

As a husband, I sounded like this throughout the last two weeks: “Sarabeth, this book has a lot of potential” … “Sarabeth, I don’t agree with his religious outlook, but he’s such a great writer, I don’t care!” … “Umm… this book is really gory. You might not be able to read it” … “I just threw up” … “I just cried like a baby.” … “Finished. Let’s start the movie.”

But as a Christian, I was not blinded to the overt inclusivistic themes of the book.

(To be sure, the movie hammered those themes much more than the book did.)

I will say that it was extremely fascinating to hear the account of Christianity retold through the eyes of a Hindu/Muslim (yes, the main character Pi subscribes to both religions, plus Christianity).

I am a huge proponent of seeing the world (and God) through the eyes of non-Christians, which is one reason why I think it’s pointless for Christians to only read theology-based books, or listen to only Christian music.

There are so many passages from the book I wanted to share on this post to you all, but space (and time) limit me. So for the sake of story, I truly hope many of you get a chance to read this book. I would be remiss in not warning you however, as I hinted above, that the book is extremely gory at times, and could be overly upsetting to many animal-lovers.

life_of_piLife of Pi directed by Ang Lee. If anything stood in my way from watching the movie, it would have been director Ang Lee’s weak reputation as a movie director. Need I say more than 2003′s all-time disaster Hulk? That, and his insistance on being controversial, i.e. Brokeback Mountain.

But people have redeemed themselves before. Everyone deserves another chance.

I think Ang Lee did the story more harm than good. I don’t know if it was his decision to add all the weird New Age-y special effects, which really served as nothing more than a New Age mini-sermon disrupting the story, or Hollywood’s insistance to cash out on the 3d rage. Either way, the exagerated color schemes and light shows were all for naught, in my opinion.

I never felt that sense of hopelessness and fear and desperation that we should have felt from Pi since falling into the lifeboat. There was never that Cast Away feel of being alone and missing the life that has forgotten you thousands and thousands of miles away.

Danny Boyle, director of 127 Hours would have been a shoe-in for this project. He knows how to make the audience thirsty for a single drop of water. With a certain, magical way of filmmaking, he can trap every audience member’s hand between a rock and a wall, and convince us all to long for a knife to saw off our arm. That’s exactly the kind of director Life of Pi needed.

I would suggest watching the movie if you simply can’t get to the book. Because, in Lee’s defense, he does stay true to the story, despite his weird detours and out-of place special effects.

In summary. Despite my disagreement with Yann Martel’s vision of God, I will eagerly anticipate his next book.

I think Ang Lee has run out of chances with me.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer the book or the movie?

Lincoln’s Birthday and the Chase for His Killer

ManhuntIn honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and in the interest of my home state, California’s largest manhunt currently taking place, I could think of no other book to recommend than this today.

For the average reader, a good book comes across their lap every so often and a great book lands there every other blue moon. For a more-than-average reader like myself, the likelihood of a great book opening itself up is much higher.

MANHUNT: THE TWELVE DAY CHASE FOR LINCOLN’S KILLER by James L. Swanson is one such book that I would like to share with you all. You may be asking why I’m recommending a book about a piece of history everyone already knows about front and back. Well for starters, it doesn’t take many pages to learn that you didn’t know the whole story. And secondly, if you’re one of those people, like myself, who wishes you could hop in a time machine and witness climatic moments in history, this book is your portal.

I read the assassination account to Sarabeth and we were both near tears, which is saying how vivid the retelling actually is. I felt like I could reach out and touch the back of President Lincoln’s head as Booth snuck into the vestibule to pull the infamous trigger firing off the shot the nation still hears today.

Furthermore, Manhunt turns into a rapid cat-and-mouse chase as Union soldiers ride through the thickets and country roads, passing Booth by merely yards not once but twice. Booth, with a broken leg, must employ his greatest acting talents to convince people that no, he is indeed not the assassin-at-large, but just a desperate Confederate soldier trying to hold his army together and continue the fight, so will you please take me in for the night?

It makes me wonder if Christopher Jordan Dorner is going through anything similar as I write this.

I would compare this book to CATCH ME IF YOU CAN by Frank W. Abagnale. They’re separated by a hundred years, the crimes committed in each tale are vastly different, but if you’ve seen the brilliant movie version of Catch Me, you know the kind of butterfly-feeling I’m talking about when the hunted is being ruthlessly pursued by the hunter, demanding justice to fall on his prey, yet you’re torn because something sinister inside of you is rooting for the bad guy, not so he can get away, but so that the story can continue.

It was a sad parting when I read the final pages of MANHUNT, but I am thankful that its sequel is sitting on my shelf, about the chase for Jefferson Davis. History buffs and thrill seekers alike would be doing themselves a gross misdeed by overlooking this work of art.

The book contains graphic imagery of stabbings and surgical procedures on victims of bloody crimes. Those with squeamish stomaches might want to be ready to skip a few pages.

What are your favorite history books that put you right in the action?

A Reluctant Book Recommendation

lifeWhen a meteor hits the moon and knocks it closer in orbit to the earth, nothing will ever be the same.

Worldwide tidal waves.

Earthquakes.

Volcanic eruptions.

And that’s just the beginning.

So is the premise for a young adult novel I just finished reading. No apocalyptic-nut can resist a book that has that as its description. Maybe it was because of The Hunger Games that made me feel like I’m not too old to be reading this teen book. Or maybe I just like really, really good stories about the end of the world. Either way, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer didn’t disappoint.

To be sure, it disappointed in a few ways, but not the way I expected. I’ll get to that in a minute. The story flowed smoothly, the characters were likable and believable, and it was one of those fictional books that got into my head – like, really got in there. To the point where I was nervous about the refrigerator being left open for too long the other night because of how important it was to keep our food rations fresh.

Written in the style of Anne Frank, the book felt real, and intense, and sometimes scary. Yes, it had me planning ahead for what would happen if the moon did get knocked closer to the earth. Good news is, according to this book, my wife and I will be safe in Kentucky. You Floridians and Californians will mostly be wiped out. Good bye New England and parts of India. Gone.

But the reason I’m reluctant to recommend this book to teens is because of the unnecessary political and religious agenda that the author spews out onto its pages, soiling this otherwise flawless book.

Pfeffer spends a good deal of the first part of the book bashing President Bush, making one of the main characters, a mother, yell at him whenever he’s on the TV calling him an idiot and saying she hates him. What else are the mother’s kids to do but laugh and agree? To be fair, I wouldn’t think it would be necessary for an author to pull the same stunt against Obama or Clinton or Carter. I just hate to see such outright political propaganda spelled out so clearly in a teen fiction book.

(This book was selected for the ALA Best Book for Young Adults amongst many other prestigious honors, by the way.)

But praise be to Pfeffer, her writing style and suspenseful plot was just enough to keep me from throwing the book away. It has a few bad words throughout, but nothing overt or out of proper context. Though it doesn’t feature Twilight-type sex-praising, it does feature teens making out a few times.

But the saddest part about the book for me was the author’s apparent bump-ins with Christians in her life. It reads clearly that she has a deep disdain for Christians and our beliefs. Judging by the book, I feel like she’s only met the type of Christians who’s only answer to every terrible crisis in life is to pray about it and be happy – always happy. The Christians featured in her book are shallow and naive, on purpose, I’m sure.

One Christian teenager the author portrays in the book starves herself because she feels it is God’s will for her life. If only Pfeffer knew that the Bible does not condone such awful behavior and any Christian who would do that would be/ought to be condemned by the church. A reverend comes across as a holier-than-thou jerk, who turns out to be hoarding his congregation’s food during the famine. His answer to everyone’s plea was always, “I’ll pray for you.” Luther would have had a hay day with this guy.

In fact, her “Christians” portray the exact people Jesus spent much of His ministry rebuking. At least this book can be an eye-opener for some of us as to how the world may perceive us, and may we change our ways.

I never want to avoid recommending a book because of any author’s beliefs, just like I would hate it if people refused to read my book because of my beliefs. But I do want to make readers aware of them, and help people to read (and write) regardless of their personal agendas. Art is art, and this book is a work of beauty, at least in a secular sense.

I hear there are two others in the series, and I’ll be grabbing them soon, and I’m sure I’ll be reveling every page – well, most of them, anyway.

Purchase it here on Amazon.

Follow what else I’m reading on Goodreads.

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